Getting published

WriteNow application guide

We've pulled together the below tips from past assessors in order to help you nail your application. When submitting your entry...

Determine whether your book is science fiction, fantasy or horror (SFFH)

Every year WriteNow focuses on a specific genre or category of books in order to provide better tailored and in-depth support through our workshops and supporting materials. This year we're looking exclusively for science fiction, fantasy and horror.

While there is an increasing blur between fiction genres, generally SFFH has one of the following:

  • A fantastical element incorporated in some way – whether it’s an alternate world, or the real world but with a fantastical creature or a touch of magic
  • A depiction of imagined or real science on our world or alternate worlds
  • A story that is intended to disturb, frighten, or scare

Get to know your story

The more you understand where your story is going, the more likely you are to submit a really strong application.

We don't expect you to have everything figured out, but it's worth spending some time thinking about your chosen setting, the key beats in your plot, who your main characters are, and the journey they will go on, as this will shine through in your synopsis.

Writing advice

Advice from our editors on writing SFFH

Learn more

Work on your book's synopsis

As part of your application we'll ask you to share a synopsis. A synopsis is a narrative summary of the plot that really crystallises what the book is about in no more than a couple hundred words.

We know that writing these can be tricky, so we're not expecting them to be perfect. Your application will be judged on your synopsis as well as your writing, though, so do spend time getting it to a place that you're happy with.

We'd recommend keeping your synopsis concise, clear, and to the point. Too much information can be confusing, but a simple and compelling message will immediately make us want to read more. When writing your synopsis, include the main plot and characters, summary of themes, and a hint of an ending. If you're stuck, check out this handy guide from Spread the Word.

Choose the right extract for your 1,000 words

We recommend that you submit the first 1,000 words of your novel as this often gets the best response from editors. However, if you'd rather submit a different extract, we recommend you consider the following:

  • Your chosen extract should give a feel for the entire book and clearly fit with the proposed synopsis.
  • Try not to start at a place where there are lots of characters who haven't been introduced, and take the time to introduce us to your main characters.
  • Don't feel that you need to use the full 1,000 words. A shorter extract (not too short!) that ends after a clear, well-drawn scene is better than including a paragraph of your next chapter to fill space.

Get a second opinion

It can be hard to be objective with your own writing, so consider running a few options past someone who hasn't read your book in full and ask them which extract makes them want to read more.

Edit, edit, then edit some more

Keep refining! It's almost impossible to write something perfect on the first go, so don't despair. Look back over your work, read it aloud to yourself, and don't be afraid to make changes.

Don't include any identifying information except where explicitly asked

You will be asked for your name, email address, and how you meet WriteNow's eligibility criteria as part of the application, but please don't share that information anywhere else in the application where you are not explicitly asked.

Please don't include your name anywhere in your synopsis or extract as these parts of your application will be shared with assessors and need to be kept anonymous.

Use the supporting materials available to you

Over the application window we'll be sharing top tips from assessors. Your can get all this straight to your inbox by signing up to the WriteNow newsletter, or by checking out the WriteNow web pages and Penguin's Getting Published hub.

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